Sage Advice: Shin Splints

A reader asked me for advice to share with a yoga student on shin splints. Here, my yoga books are less germane and The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery is more useful. Shin splints usually result from an imbalance between work and rest—too much mileage, too soon, and sometimes on too hard a surface.

Things to check when shin splints arise:

  • Amount of mileage relative to recent experience. If it’s shot up, why? (In this case, it’s the start of high school XC season.) When possible, pull it back and build again more slowly.
  • Shoes. Are your shoes fresh enough? When the cushioning wears out, the shins take more stress.
  • Surface. If you’re suddenly running a lot on a hard surface, you may be over stressing your lower legs.

As a work/rest imbalance, shin splints should encourage the runner to lay off and focus on recovery. Icing can help, too.

There are some nice stretches for the shins. Easiest is simply kneeling. If kneeling is hard on the outside of the knees, lay a blanket under your shins. If it’s hard on the inside of the knees, lay a blanket between your hamstrings and calves, to decrease the compression at the knee.

A favorite of mine is half kneeling, half squatting, illustrated on page 130 of The Athlete’s Guide to Yoga. From kneeling, take your right foot alongside your left knee. This stretches the lower leg on the right while releasing the shin on the left. For even more of a stretch, push your hands into the floor and lift the left knee—you’ll feel it in the left ankle and shin.

There’s a whole chapter on the lower leg in my next book, which will be out in spring 2012. (I should be able to reveal its title pretty soon!)